Antioxidants can reduce cognitive difficulties in diabetes patients, that occur as a result of repeated episodes of low blood sugar, finds a new study.
Findings of the study, presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Glasgow, suggests that stimulation of antioxidant defenses in mice reduces cognitive impairments, which could improve the quality of life for patients with diabetes.
A long-term decline in cognitive function characterized by impaired memory and learning ability is a common consequence for diabetic patients who frequently experience low levels of blood sugar while using insulin.
Previous studies in mice have shown that reoccurring episodes of low blood sugar leads an accumulation of cell-damaging free radicals in the brain. Whether this build-up of free radical stress directly affects cognitive function, and if the body’s own antioxidative systems, which can remove free radicals, can be harnessed to counteract these changes and improve quality of life is not known.
For the study, the research team consisting of Dr. Alison McNeilly and colleagues at the University of Dundee used insulin to induce repeated bouts of low blood sugar in a mouse model of type-1 diabetes. In the experiment, one group of mice were also dosed with the vegetable-derived antioxidant sulforaphane (SFN).
Mice treated with SFN showed increased expression of antioxidant markers, decreased free radical cell damage and had significantly improved cognitive ability in memory tasks.
Low blood sugar is an almost unavoidable consequence of insulin therapy. This work demonstrates that by improving the body’s own antioxidant defense system we can reverse some of the side effects associated with diabetes, such as poor cognitive function, according to Dr. McNeilly.
Dr. McNeilly and her colleagues now intend to find out if boosting the body’s antioxidative system can minimize cognitive decline associated with low blood sugar in humans, by using drugs based on the chemical structure of SFN.
“The concentration of SFN used in this study would not be attainable in a normal diet rich in vegetables. However, there are numerous highly potent compounds in clinical trials which may prevent cognitive impairments caused by free radicals to help diabetes patients,” said Dr. McNeilly.